Amid cheers, tears, applause, standing ovations, gratitude and the Eucharist, Bishop Jon Bruno on Dec. 1 handed a historic crozier — a shepherd’s staff, the symbol of his office — to his successor, the Rt. Rev. John Taylor at the 122nd annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Taylor’s first official act as seventh bishop diocesan of Los Angeles was to name Mary Bruno, wife of the retiring bishop, an honorary canon of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul. “Each time someone says to Jon … you are abundant in love and care and goodness,” Taylor said, “he always says, ‘the reason I am able to be those things is Mary.’”
As preacher at the opening worship service, retired Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton also expressed gratitude for the Brunos’ leadership and friendship. “Jon has done more for me than you will ever know,” he told hundreds of clergy and lay delegates, guests and visitors at the convention center in Ontario.
Talton also called the gathering to agape love. “We are mindful that we are gathering at a time when forces are working to divide people,” he said. “We come together at a time when racists are emboldened, encouraged … when bigotry is on the rise. We come together at a time when the highest levels of our government seem to be working to do those things that divide us.”
Talton said that agape love is “a reminder of how we are to be with one another; how we are to treat one another; how we are to regard one another.
“Agape is to wish the best for the object of your love,” he said. “It is to be concerned for their welfare. It is to care about them as much as you care for yourself.
“It is that love to which we are called to live our lives with Jesus Christ. I suggest to you that in our times the “other” — those who are foreign, those who are alien, those who are different, those who suffer oppression even now, even here; those who are depressed, those who are alienated … what God calls us to do is love, and love is an act of reaching out and responding to their need to be free. That’s what love requires. Those of us who live in agape must come to the aid of those who are in need, because love requires it.”
Hearts ‘hungry for TLC’:
Transformation, Leadership, Community
Bishop John Taylor invoked a theme for his episcopacy — Bruce Springsteen’s song title “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart” — during his Dec. 1 convention address, calling Los Angeles Episcopalians to a renewed vision of “TLC” — tender loving care for one another and all creation. And to TLC — a renewed vision of transparency, leadership and community.
In this “secularizing time” of anxiety, division and fear, when many avoid church, that hunger presents Episcopalians with opportunities for mission and ministry, he said. All humanity hungers for ultimate meaning, community and justice.
Rather than marketing, rebranding, or making liturgical adjustments in an attempt to reach a culture “absolutely convinced it has outgrown church,” the church needs to stick to authenticity, Taylor said. “We can literally worry ourselves to death or we can let our growth as a denomination in this diocese, in this place — should it come — be a consequence of our stubborn authenticity.
“Let us not be what the fickle spirit of the age tempts us to be, but what the eternal spirit of our God in Christ needs us to be in this time in this era of anxiety, injustice, fear and insecurity.
“Remember, of all the things we do, all the ministries we do, things we celebrate … we don’t do any of these things for ourselves” but for those who aren’t here yet, he said. “For those whose hunger isn’t assuaged yet, who don’t even know they’re hungry. We do what we do for the whole Body of Christ. We do it for the whole creation.”
Taylor’s address — frequently interrupted by applause — was comprehensive, including remarks on financial transparency and Corporation Sole: being “clear about what we have, what we’re doing with what we have and … being clear about what we need to do the kind of ministry we discern together needs to be done.” A video of the address is online here.
Corporation Sole is a California 501c3 corporation of which the incumbent bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles is sole trustee. Its workings have been scrutinized in connection with the recent attempted sale by Bishop Bruno of church property in Newport Beach.
Convention approved a resolution affirming the work of the Special Committee on Corporation Sole, involving reorganization of the fund, inviting more transparency and comments and dialogue. That plan will be ready for implementation by Easter 2018, according to committee chair the Very Rev. Canon Michael Archer, rector of St. Wilfrid’s, Huntington Beach.
“While titled or real property will remain in Corp Sole, decisions regarding that property will be subject to the appropriate diocesan bodies,” he said.
Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce, who also addressed convention, will oversee the budget and related fiscal affairs, working with the new chief financial officer, the Rev. Michele Racusin, formerly of the Diocese of San Joaquin, to ensure it reflects “the heart of the diocese,” Taylor said.
Bruce garnered hearty applause when she announced she is “cancer-free” and energized and is looking forward to working together “on what is important” and focusing on unity in diversity.
St. James the Great, Newport Beach;
reconciliation and a way forward
The way forward in the aftermath of disciplinary hearings over the attempted sale of the disputed St. James the Great, Newport Beach property, will include a process of reconciliation, Taylor announced.
The process will require everyone to come to the table, to acknowledge “things (that) have been done on both sides of the painful question that ought not to have been done,” Taylor said. The St. James congregation has petitioned the diocese to establish a mission station, the first step toward becoming a mission congregation, next steps of which are now pending with the diocesan Standing Committee
The Rev. Melissa McCarthy, canon to the ordinary, on Dec. 2 reported to convention that in collaboration with the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center she has developed a six-phase yearlong process for reconciliation to assist the healing process.
“We need healing,” Taylor said.
Taylor called upon leadership in congregations, diocesan program groups and commissions to assess, adopt and live into a vision of sustainability “so when the moment comes we’ll all be able to be the church the world doesn’t even realize it needs.”
He plans a fresh look at the structure of diocesan convention, as well as the Cathedral ministry in two places; Echo Park and St. John’s Cathedral. He also announced that Bishop Talton will join Bishop Samuel Azariah, retired bishop of Pakistan, and Bishop Catherine Roskam, retired suffragan of New York, in assisting with episcopal visitations.
Bruce’s oversight will include geographic deaneries 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10, while Taylor will oversee deaneries 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
A renewed vision of mission, ministry and justice
The Rev. Francisco Garcia, rector of Holy Faith Church, Inglewood, and co-chair of the diocesan sanctuary task force, spoke to issues of justice while preaching Dec. 2 during Morning Prayer.
After last year’s convention approved sanctuary status for the diocese, he said, the diocese needs “to continue to build upon what it means to be a sanctuary diocese … to be sanctuary churches, … sanctuary people; to offer welcome, refuge, to offer a place for someone to lay their head,” he said. “The work has only really just begun.”
Referencing a current anti-immigrant political climate, he said, “We must be the people who will say ‘you are my beloved.’ There is hope. We are a people of restoration. We are a people who seek liberation of all humanity. We will be bound together in one God, one Spirit, one Love.”
He invited delegates to take action, to contact congressional leaders, to sit in at their offices, to make phone calls, to tweet, email, risk arrest, to fast, in support of the 800,000-some Dreamers whose future in this country has been put in jeopardy by the Trump Administration.
“Give up a meal” said Garcia. “Say ‘we are with you. We see you …’ We will do everything in our capacity to break down the walls of our church, everything we can to make our churches actual sanctuaries. To make the building called a sanctuary a real sanctuary.”
In the Margaret Parker lecture on Friday afternoon, Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church also called for justice and compassion for immigrants. An account of her address is on pages 12 – 13.
‘New Community’ collaborations; unity in diversity
“Many communities like ours tend to celebrate diversity without fully embracing it,” said Taylor, citing specifically inequities in the way mission congregations are funded. “There is a deep inequity in the way we fund parish and mission ministry. Bishop Bruce has said there is a shameful correlation between the list of mission churches and the list of churches where English is not the primary language.
“We have a problem with privilege,” he added amid applause.
Bishop Bruce will continue to oversee multicultural ministry, being recast as “New Community” ministry. She evoked the Celtic image of the Triquetra, symbolizing the Trinity, as an expression of unity in diversity and collaborative ministry.
Laundry Love, Christian Education programs and youth groups are excellent opportunities for congregations to work together, “to strengthen the knot and keep it alive and growing,” she said. “We need to stop thinking someone may steal my sheep and start thinking we will attract more sheep by working collaboratively as a community of faith.”
Appreciative of and amazed by the “incredible mission and ministry being done in the diocese,” Bruce promised more working together “on what is important.”
For example, an immersion model is under development by the Rev. Peter Huang “for clergy and lay leaders in neighborhoods where the demographic makeup is changing, to experience the culture of who God is bringing into the neighborhood.”
New Community gatherings are being organized to affirm mixed-race couples, and to reach out to those who may not feel comfortable going to churches where they are the only Asians. In addition, Bruce will continue her “walkabouts” in church communities, she said.
The ongoing national “reckoning” as members of Congress and others are confronted by instances of sexual harassment is an invitation to renew church commitments to ensuring broad representation of all groups in rector searches, Bruce said, and to promote “tried and true” organizations such as the Episcopal Church Women, United Thank Offering, Daughters of the King, Girls Friendly Society and the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.
Bruce emphasized the importance of worldwide and interfaith ministries through the work of the Program Group on Global Partnership and the Program Group on Ecumenical and Interfaith Concerns. The former was especially noted when delegates approved a companion relationship with the Diocese of Tairäwhiti in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Education, lifetime spiritual work
and effective communication
With the coming transition of Bloy House away from Claremont — made necessary by Claremont School of Theology’s imminent move to Williamette University in Salem, Oregon — Bruce said there is “an opportunity to rethink our delivery of theological education and training at all levels and in all forms, from regional trainings to webinars to podcasts. We can and will rethink and re-imagine content as well as delivery.”
Currently, the diocese offers training via: the Instituto de Liderazgo — lay leadership training in Spanish; the Li Tim Oi Institute — lay leadership training in Mandarin; and the Iona Collaborative — a three-year program designed as an alternative to traditional seminary for deacons and priests, which launches in January 2018.
The Iona Collaborative “is also working to develop lay leadership training modules which could be used in English the same way the Instituto de Liderazgo and the Li Tim-Oi Institute offer lay leadership training in Spanish and Mandarin,” Bruce said.
Video of Bruce’s address is here.
Taylor also called upon participants to update their personal info and offer story ideas and other input with the Office of Communication and Canon Janet Kawamoto, editor of The Episcopal News (editor @ladiocese.org).
“The things that happen in our churches might look old hat but they may look beautiful and edgy and exciting and colorful and mysterious to people who are hungry but might not know it yet.”
Taylor also announced that Robert Williams, formerly canon for community relations, would take on a new position as canon for Common Life, including ongoing supervision of communication, interfaith and public affairs programs.
Finally, Taylor said, “Churched or not, faithful or not, knowing they’re hungry yet or not, we commend ourselves as priests and prophets and practitioners of the great divine agape.
“And when we stumble — for we will — and when we get it wrong — because that’s inevitable — let’s just remember what that transformational Christian leader, lifesaver, redemption guru Fr. Greg Boyle [founder of Homeboys Inc.] said recently: ‘Communion is not for perfect people, it’s for hungry people.’”
Transitions, other convention business
Convention-goers also met the Rev. Michele Racusin, who will succeed Ted Forbath as chief financial officer for the diocese (see story here).
Also addressing convention were a variety of speakers, including Girls Friendly Society Diocesan President Margaret Nolde; Brother Dennis Gibbs of the Community of Divine Love; and Camp Stevens Executive Director Beth Bojarski.
Gratitude and congratulations were offered for Canon Janet Wylie, retiring Secretary of Convention, and for her successor, Canon Steve Nishibayashi, M.D. Delegates also thanked retiring assistant secretary of convention Annette Graw; retiring chief operating officer Canon David Tumilty, and retiring judge of elections Roger Leachman.
Convention passed a $6.7 million transitional budget — promising that the 2019 budget will show the true heart of the diocese — and elected officers (see list here).
Delegates considered several resolutions. One asking each congregation to pay a $600 fee over a two-year period to fund a youth ministries survey, sparked spirited debate.
“This has been greatly needed for many, many years,” said the Rev. Michael Cooper, rector of St. Nicholas Church in Encino. “I was director of youth ministry and religious education [for the diocese] for eight years. We all say that youth are a priority; we say we will do all these wonderful things for youth. The bottom line is, they need our help.”
But the Rev. Julie Bryant, rector of Church of the Transfiguration, Arcadia, objected. “As to the financing of this proposal, by my count this would include 40 mission congregations who probably do not have the money.”
Others suggested utilizing less expensive survey methods. A substitute resolution removing the proposed fee was approved.
Another resolution, asking for revisions to the confidentiality requirements outlined in the wider church’s Title IV hearing process, was approved after lengthy debate.
The Rev. Rachel Nyback, president of the Standing Committee, presented the resolution, which reflected procedural challenges faced during the Title IV ecclesiastical discipline process concerning Bishop Jon Bruno regarding St. James the Great.
“Our hope in raising these issues is that other standing committees, vestries, parishes, missions and dioceses might avoid the trauma and divisions that continue to endure.” Those divisions included confidentiality, required of all involved clergy, but not laypeople, which enabled a social media campaign that inevitably led to a one-sided presentation of the facts.
Additionally, individuals perceived as supportive of Bruno were targeted and harassed by hate emails and texts, anonymous threats, distribution of flyers, visits to mission congregations, emails and organizational disruptions. Because of the confidentiality requirement, the diocese could not correct the inaccurate information disseminated, according to Nyback.
“We pray that no other mission, parish, diocese or respondent will experience what the past two and a half years has been for the Diocese of Los Angeles. Hate mail, trolling, and anonymous threats do nothing to build up the church, and are certainly not the way to resolve disagreements, she said. “Regardless of the outcome for our bishop, glaring deficiencies in the Title IV process have been exposed.”
Several delegates criticized the resolution as divisive and said that lack of appropriate notice regarding its contents did not afford enough time to adequately consider it. The resolution’s framers said the text needed to be approved in a timely manner to enable the diocese to present it for consideration at General Convention, to be held in Austin, Texas, in July 2018.
The Rev. Nancy Frausto, associate rector at St. Luke’s, Long Beach and a member of the diocesan standing committee, said the rancor expressed during the battle over the Newport Beach property was “pathetic.”
“It’s time for this diocese to be more about Jesus and less about property,” she said. “It’s time to bring Jesus back into the conversation. Can we just have this conversation with the national church so another diocese doesn’t have to go through the pain and the broken relationships?”
The Very Rev. Canon Mark Kowalewski, co-dean of St. John’s Cathedral, disagreed. “This conversation we’ve just been having indicates the need for a reconciliation process. Sometimes processes take time. It seems to me that in order to be fair, to listen to one another, we need to put this on hold and perhaps in the future we can talk about it again.”
In a vote by orders, the resolution passed by a narrow margin. The texts of all resolutions approved by convention are here.